Morning Minutes (2011-2014)
Morning Minutes is a project I've been working on for several years. Each track was made in a day, usually in less than an hour. The impetus behind the project is both therapeutic–the idea to make a short track each day without thinking about it too much–and practical–I enjoy listening to my own music, especially while driving, and these short tape pieces proved to be excellent driving music. Don't listen for too much to happen. But it's not ambient. Good for driving, cleaning, especially driving. I didn't want to compose. The composition was subconscious. The tracks are arranged in the order they were made. I subconsciously composed the flow. The twenty tracks on this album were selected from over 130 tracks. All tracks were made on a Tascam 464 four-track cassette recorder. Other instruments used: Juno 60, electric guitar, bass, and turntable. No computers were used. All loops are made in real time by placing a guitar slide in front of the turntable arm to make a skipping loop. I had a reverb pedal and a distortion pedal as well. And sometimes delay and fuzz and one other effect. I wrote three pages of words each day before making the tracks. I also took a screen shot of the Rockaway surf cam every day after making each track. I would usually listen to these tracks on the drive out to Rockaway to go surfing. I really enjoy listening to these tracks. I hope you enjoy them too.
Hospitality (2007 - present)
On its self-titled debut, the charming Brooklyn pop-rock band Hospitality burst out of the gate like a batch of 4.0 GPA indie-rock students, not unlike their forerunning New York City bros in Vampire Weekend. With songs that crushed out on coworkers and wrapped heartache in cheap dresses, frontwoman Amber Papini managed a balancing act of post-collegiate insouciance and soul, channeling The Velvet Undergound's prettier moments with knowing, Belle & Sebastian-style naivete. More than one observer described Hospitality by invoking a cardigan.
By comparison, the band's second album is more of a leather jacket. Listen to "I Miss Your Bones," whose muscular staccato suggests a geekier version of The Who circa The Who Sell Out, with Papini's minimalist New York City guitar blowing smoke rings alongside bandmate (and husband) Nathan Michel's Keith Moon-y drum outburst. The subject matter — aching for someone you hope will remain true in your absence, delivered with sexy petulance — is still pretty much the same, though: love and its inevitable, integral disappointments. (NPR)
The Beast (2005)
Following his adventurous excursions into Zappa territory with Dear Bicycle, Nathan Michel takes a 90-degree turn with his laptop and his instruments and his bleeps on The Beast. Right away, the guitar-fueled "Dust" lets everyone know that this won't be a rehash of the bloop'n'bleep-happy Tigerbeat6 campaign, but rather the bastard stepchild of Pet Sounds and Something/Anything? all rolled into a 42-minute song cycle. And while comparing The Beast to two of pop music's most holy of documents may seem sacrilegious to some, it's a fully warranted comparison. Layer upon layer of digital and acoustic percussion run amuck around quirky but melodic chord charts, heavily inspired by the aforementioned releases but not relying solely on imitation to get the point across. Michel's vocals at times sound like Air Supply's Graham Russell, but this is a good thing in a sea of IDM artists who insist on singing, with the result often being a horrible layer of sound on top of otherwise good music. And the influence of Zappa hasn't entirely gone away, as revealed by the melodies on "Status Dive," with their choppy singsong delivery up and down a scale that wouldn't be out of place on We're Only in It for the Money. But for all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, Michel has crafted a record that would find equal shelf space in the collections of the staunchest of laptop elitists, fans of Stereolab, and anyone who simply like adventurous, fresh new music that's as challenging as it is entertaining. (All Music)
Dear Bicycle (2003)
It's hard not to immediately compare Nathan Michel's Dear Bicycle to Frank Zappa's Civilization Phase III. All of the elements are there: the hummable but strangely dissonant melodies, the fresh-sounding percussion workouts, and the quirky sense of humor that graced the majority of Zappa's works. But it's not all about Zappa either; there's a trace element of Captain Beefheart, Stravinsky, and modern-day artists like labelmate Kid 606 that, when put together, form the basis of Michel's extremely fresh approach to IDM composition. Much like madman/genius Brian Wilson, Michel juxtaposes instruments with such bright and resilient tones over one another that amid the frenetic chaos of the arrangements it somehow makes sense. It's a perfect fusion of the academic sensibilities and rampant aesthetic Tigerbeat so fiercely holds near and dear to their hearts. Easily one of the most challenging listens in their catalog and essential for fans of both camps. (All Music)
Fab technicolor stuttering and blinking laptop abuse from this artist most known for his releases on Tigerbeat6. The work on this live document (somewhat distinct from his more polished studio outings) sits somewhere between the blipping cellular cascades of Nobukazu Takamura, the ragged laptop spasticity of Secret Mommy or Libythth and the sorta diamond cut absurdist musical fragmentation that Goodiepal specializes in; all of these glistening amoebas, spluttering rhythmic dysfunctions and Carl Stalling clusterfucks being daisy chained into strings of inspired dadaist non sequiturs. (Mutant Sounds)
Abc Def (2002)
There are two types of Moms in the world: The kind that took all your Star Wars figures, your He-Man Snake Mountain playset and that plastic guitar by Tiger and shipped them off to the Goodwill in cardboard boxes; and the kind that took all those little plastic chunks of your childhood and entombed them in the attic, where they sit waiting for a boring snow day or a summer of unemployment to be rediscovered and put back into use. With all of the plastic Casio beats, Master System interludes and chirping electric knick-knacks floating in the nostalgic soup that is ABC DEF, it seems pretty obvious that Nathan Michel's mom falls into the latter category. You can almost see her hanging his spelling tests on the fridge.There's not a slide whistle or battery-powered keyboard or Rock'em Sock'em robot that hasn't been brought along for Michel's long imaginary drive through the broken-glass crystal city of pre-pubescence: Plastic recorders whimper, lonely video games repeat their Boss Level tunes in a desperate bid for attention, and tin toys of every stripe and temperament lose their shit, filling the play room with the rusty click-clack of brass keys slowly grinding down to a halt. This isn't group play-- make no mistake-- but rather an intense session of (presumably) dextromethorphan-fueled make-believe for Michel and the monsters in his closet. And just like any other intensely private childhood game, the rules of this one are almost incomprehensible to any of us other kids who wandered in late. (Pitchfork)
Concert Music (1994 - present)
Here's some classical music I wrote. With a debt to Stravinsky, my harmonic language often searches for the "right wrong notes." In Shelter, for example, a simple melody drifts through the ensemble in canons of varying distances, creating a hovering, mobile-like music that is largely tonal, with occasional flares of dissonance. And in Piece With Rising and Falling a propulsive left-hand ostinato provides a musical straight-jacket out of which the right hand melody tries to escape. I play the piano on tracks 5 and 6 and recorded the performances on cassette, though the recordings (ironically) sound like midi.
Poor Cow (1989-1992)
I played bongos in my first band. I was around 8 years old. Then I moved on to a cardboard drum set that my dad built me. The cymbals were made of thin metal sheets. The kick pedal beater was a tennis ball. Next, I picked up the guitar. Open E minor was the first chord I learned. It's still my favorite. Inspired by the Beatles and Neil Young, I started recording my own songs on a 4-track under the name Poor Cow.